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Lot 318: Mew Imperial Light Tourist

Quail Lodge Sale, Bonhams (16 August 2012)

English motorcycle history, like America's, is chockablock with innovative firms that for one reason or another failed to survive. New Imperial, based in Birmingham, is one such company. Its history is akin to many others of the time  producing bicycle parts first, then complete bicycles and finally motorcycles. That last transition was a little wobbly, literally and figuratively, as Imperial's first motorized two-wheeler was a flawed front-wheel-drive design that placed the engine high on the handlebars. It failed to sell. That debacle was overcome and by 1914 New Imperial's Light Tourist model was among Britain's best motorcycles. Powered by a 300cc J.A.P. single in a lightweight yet durable frame, the bike was a match for many heavier 500cc machines. The company's prowess was further demonstrated with six class wins at the prestigious Isle of Man TT races prior to WWII. Sadly, New Imperial didn't get to see peacetime. Already in financial straits during the Depression, the company was sold off in 1938 to an outfit that made metal parts for the R.A.F.'s fighters and bombers. As such it was a prime target for the German Luftwaffe and the factory was destroyed in a 1940 bombing raid. Though its front numberplate has been lettered with a 1912 date, the Hobday collection's example dates from at least two years later when the Light Tourist was introduced. The confusion apparently coming from 1912 being New Imperial's first year of motorcycle production.

Lot Details
Auction Quail Lodge Sale
Bonhams, Carmel, California, USA
TypeMotorcycle
Lot Number318
Estimate$10000-$14000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$9800
Hammer Price (inc premium)$11270
Year1917
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis numberA5717
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors